After a brief delay due to the current pandemic, the sophomore effort from Finnish melodic rockers One Desire finally sees the light of day, and by Lempo’s beard (cheers Google), ‘Midnight Empire’ is more than worth the wait.
After a brief clip of movie dialogue, One Desire come flying out of the traps at pace on opening track ‘Shadowman’. One of two tracks on the album to pass six minutes in length, it has a little bit of everything for anyone with a hankering for some top-notch modern melodic rock. The most pleasing aspect of the six plus minutes is that both guitarist Jimmy Westerlund and drummer Ossi Sivula can be heard way up in the mix. Too many similar bands fall foul of pushing the vocals to the front, at the expense of the guitars and drums. No risk of that here though. Vocalist André Linman is one of the rapidly rising stars of the genre, and impresses with his ultra-clean vocals, as well as when he reaches for the high notes. A fantastic way of welcoming One Desire back after two years.
‘After You’re Gone’ keeps the momentum going, albeit with a softer tempo. Linman’s vocals again are impressive, and fans of melodic guitar solos will drool to their heart’s content on this one. There is emphasis placed on the words “separate ways” throughout, and conscious or not, it is a stellar tip of the hat to Journey. After the lighter-than-light ‘Down And Dirty’, the pace quickens again for ‘Godsent Exstasy’, and Westerlund shines again. Curious about the spelling of “Exstasy” though? Freudian slip? “Where’s the power ballad, dude?” you might be asking; well here it comes in the shape of the near-seven minute epic ‘Through The Fire’. Treading the tried and trusted route of soft-hard-soft-hard, it highlights the strides that One Desire have made in the songwriting department. Guitar-wise, it’s very Whitesnake orientated (the jam towards the end is magnificent), and the piano adds a nice touch. The end result is perhaps the stand-out moment on the album.
The latter half of the album isn’t as urgent as the first half, and some of the tracks take a few listens before sinking in, but stick with it and you’ll be rewarded. ‘Rio’ isn’t a cover of the Duran Duran hit, but in all honesty One Desire would probably have knocked it out of the park if it was. ‘Battlefield Of Love’ quickly follows on and scores high on the Euro-meter; a perfect blend of punchy drums, melodic guitar solos and cheesy pop synths/keyboards. ‘Killer Queen’ drops the cheese-factor (apart from the A-Ha feel just before the guitar solo), and replaces it with another moment where the drum sound of Ossi Sivula is key. Bassist Jonas Kuhlberg gets in on the act and delivers a perfect non-fussy performance.
After impressing with their highly polished self-titled debut album back in 2017, as well as show-stealing support slots with Swedish kings of melodic rock, Eclipse, album number two needed to capitalise on the momentum gained. Not only has ‘Midnight Empire’, to an extent, matched the debut, but in some areas (especially the songwriting), it has surpassed it.
Review – Dave